The Desert Was Never Empty
One fact about the United Arab Emirates (commonly reduced to “Dubai”) seems clear to most foreign commentators. It is completely fake. Twenty years ago nobody could name an artist, poet or figure of any cultural authority from the UAE. The place was a remote corner of an empty desert peninsula that somehow became independent in the slipstream of decolonization. It was only thanks to their hydrocarbon resources and a shrewd touristic PR strategy that they could buy their way into the community of “real” nations.
In that case the art boom in Dubai can only be testimony to the fakeness of the whole art world. As disparaging critics note, the West seems to beg: “You can buy our Louvre, our Guggenheim, our Damien Hirsts if you want to. You need our culture, we need your money. We throw in the elegant party crowd for free.”
This pavilion belies all that. Mohammed Kazem has been working hard in his native Dubai and abroad for two decades. He has found his way onto the local and then international scene slowly, through his merit and hard work – not catapulted as a national symbol of success.
Now reflect on this after having visited the show: has your image of Dubai/the UAE changed? And if so, has the country not truly mastered the art of national representation?Robert Kluijver